Coping to What End?: Core Belief Disruption and Posttraumatic Growth During COVID-19

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Whitney Dominick, PhD Taylor Elam


The pandemic caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus disrupted life globally, leading to a disruption of core beliefs, the need for coping strategies, and the possibility of posttraumatic growth, the positive psychological change that may occur after a stressful or traumatic event. This study followed 201 participants from the United States (Mage: 35.39, SD: 14.60) at four time points over the first year of the pandemic. Core belief disruption, the use of coping strategies, and posttraumatic growth were assessed in March 2020 (T1), April 2020 (T2), September 2020 (T3), and April 2021 (T4). From T1 to T4, core belief disruption significantly increased, and the use of most coping strategies decreased, but overall posttraumatic growth did not change. However, posttraumatic growth at all four time points was predicted by higher levels of core belief disruption, although which coping strategies predicted core belief disruption and posttraumatic growth varied based on the time of assessment and whether analyses were cross-sectional or longitudinal. Overall, the avoidant coping strategy of substance use was most frequently associated with core belief disruption, followed by the emotion-focused strategies of acceptance, self-blame, and religion. Interestingly, each problem-focused coping strategy was predictive of core belief disruption at one time point cross-sectionally, but no problem-focused coping strategy predicted core belief disruption longitudinally. Alternatively, the problem-focused coping strategies of active coping and positive reframing were the most frequent predictors of posttraumatic growth, while 50% of avoidant and emotion-focused coping strategies, such as self-distraction, denial, emotional support, and venting, were not associated with posttraumatic growth at any time point. These results indicate that participants were flexible with the use of coping strategies based on the circumstances at the time. Additionally, the coping strategies that primarily predict core belief disruption differ from the coping strategies that primarily predict posttraumatic growth. These findings highlight the coping strategies that should be avoided since they may contribute primarily to core belief disruption and encourage the use of coping strategies that may promote psychological growth following traumatic events.

Keywords: core belief disruption, coping, posttraumatic growth, COVID-19

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How to Cite
DOMINICK, Whitney; ELAM, Taylor. Coping to What End?: Core Belief Disruption and Posttraumatic Growth During COVID-19. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 1, jan. 2023. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 july 2024. doi:
Research Articles


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